Going Green: United States

Satellite View of Hurricane Sandy.
Photo: Flickr.com/NASA Goddard Photo and Video

Devastating an area of the country that rarely experiences hurricanes, Sandy arrived to the northeast coast of the United States at the end of this October. Hurricanes typically plot a path along the southeast coast. However, recent extreme weather patterns provided a needed reality check for Americans. Greater numbers of people are recognizing the impact of climate change on the number and scale of natural phenomena.

In the United States, the history of environmental and climate change legislature peaked between 1964-1980.  Scientific and technological abilities have only improved since then, but nevertheless, a tendency to neglect the environment is still present. In general, certain political parties claim climate change does not exist or believe government spending is an inefficient allocation of government resources. Political parties frequently have a lot of inertia in regard to climate change policy.

The facts are indisputable; ocean temperatures and water levels are rising, polar ice caps are melting, world temperatures are increasing, and erratic weather patterns are becoming more prevalent.  All of these trends have increased dramatically in the past one hundred years. The issue for scientists is not to prove the existence of these global phenomena but to predict the exact timeline and the magnitude of climate change.

Currently, the longitudinal studies of government and non-government agencies impress the wide range and long-term effects of climate change upon the world. However, government agencies put teeth into policies and hold the US government and population accountable.  For example, in 2009, the CIA created an institution called The Center on Climate Change and National Security. The focus was to combine the CIA national defense concerns with current research on multi-varied threats of global warming.  Additionally, The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) aims to reduce carbon gas emissions, protect resources, and put forth policy plans. More conservative politicians argue against the CIA Center and EPA spending.

The areas affected by climate change are as varied as the causes.  The environmental dangers, social shifts, economic costs, and political tensions are ever mounting. The cause and effect of climate change is entrapped in a dangerous and vicious cycle of damage.

The US population appears to hold little interest in its own fate or that of the world in respect to climate issues.  A plethora of solutions exist to ameliorate the ever-pressing issue. “Cap and Trade” is an innovative and effective policy to rectify human damage to our environment.  The “cap” functions by enacting limits on carbon emissions that greenhouse gases companies, factories, and industrial firms produce; the “trade” allows those who efficiently accomplish their “cap” to trade or sell the remainder of their cap to another firm.

As a result, the cap eventually becomes smaller, emissions decrease, and the effects of climate change are slowed.  However, the US often criticizes the “Cap and Trade” policy out of a fear of harming industries, increasing company costs, increasing unemployment, and shifting jobs to countries with less stringent environmental policies. Conservative political parties feel the EPA and other environmental organizations promote too much government involvement and harm an already suffering economy.  In order to understand “Cap and Trade,” while also appreciating the varied threats of climate change, it is crucial for the US population to take scientific facts and begin a process of reform to reduce the ramifications of climate change.

If you are interested in the French perspective on these issues, click here.

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